A Day in the Life: Culture change for a younger set

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Maria Alseth
Maria Alseth
If you were to visit the young adult care unit at Ecumen Bayshore Health Center, in Duluth, MN, chances are that Lady Gaga would be playing on a resident's stereo, and a group would be gathered around a living room table playing board games. In other words, it would look and feel a lot like any young adult's house or apartment — and that's how the residents at this nursing home like it.

Maria Alseth, RN, 39, who started the transition to a more youth-friendly environment at Ecumen's young adult care unit four years ago, says it's harder for younger nursing home residents to build a sense of community than it is for elderly residents.

“To create a home is ultimately our mission,” Alseth explains.

Many have had brain injuries or other forms of neurological impairment. Some of the residents in the unit, who can range in age from 19 to 60, have part-time jobs outside of the facility. Ecumen connects residents with jobs and other groups in Duluth.

When Alseth took on culture change in the young adult unit, the first thing she did was ensure consistent assignment with CNAs.

“We changed the way we thought about their care. Culture change is about process,” she says. “The CNAs and staff are working to create more meaningful relationships and trust. With that trust comes better compliance and better behaviors.”